The fight against gas-powered leaf blowers continues in Huntington.
Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) launched an initiative to educate Huntington residents on the environmental and health effects of specific leaf blowers this past week. Berland posted a video on her page within the town website that shows a presentation with Quiet Communities and the American Green Zone Alliance, both organizations that work toward protecting the health, environment and quality of life from the use of industrial outdoor maintenance equipment.
“The pollution generated by gas-powered leaf blowers is completely avoidable, as is the high-frequency noise generated by these blowers, which carries through entire neighborhoods and has been associated with permanent hearing damage,” Berland said in the video.
She highlights a lithium battery-powered leaf blower as a preferable alternative to gas-powered blowers.
“Lithium battery-powered leaf blowers give off zero toxic emissions and generate 50 percent less noise than gas-powered equipment,” Berland said. “There is no soil or water pollution and the price is comparable to other types of lawn maintenance equipment.”
Quiet Communities Executive Director Jamie Banks talked in the video about the public health and environmental effects of gas-powered blowers.
“If you think about what it takes to maintain a gas-powered engine, there are a lot of solid and toxic chemicals,” Banks said. “They come usually in cans or nonrecyclable plastic containers with residue. These can be thrown into landfills; the chemicals themselves can be spilled into the soil and eventually reach water supplies and marine systems.”
She also highlighted the health risks that come with using or being around the usage area of a gas-powered leaf blower.
“Workers who have these machines on their backs, they are very close to the source of the exhaust emissions and other ground source particulates,” she said, noting that children playing nearby may also be exposed.
Both the exhaust emissions and the ground source particulates can negatively affect health.
A 2013 assessment by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said, “Outdoor air pollution is carcinogenic to humans, with the particulate matter component of air pollution most closely associated with increased cancer incidence, especially cancer of the lung. An association also has been observed between outdoor air pollution and increase in cancer of the urinary tract/bladder.”
The American Lung Association also said in its 2014 State of the Air, “Short-term exposure to particle pollution can kill. Particle pollution does not just make people die a few days earlier than they might otherwise — these are deaths that would not have occurred if the air were cleaner.”
The noise effect of leaf blowers was also mentioned in Berland’s presentation.
According to public advocacy group Dangerous Decibels, once a sound reaches 85 decibels or higher, it can cause permanent damage to your hearing. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration said noise from leaf blowers can reach at least 90 decibels.
According to the Center for Hearing and Communication, rainfall measures about 50 decibels, normal conversation is about 60 decibels and freeway traffic or a vacuum cleaner could reach about 70 decibels.
“The health risks posed by gas-powered landscaping equipment need to be addressed,” Berland said.
She is also encouraging residents and landscaping companies in the Huntington area who only use electric-powered equipment, as opposed to gas-powered equipment, to take a “green pledge” and add themselves to a list that will be featured on the town’s website.
Berland has been working on legislation that would limit use of gas-powered leaf blowers in summer months, as residents have voiced their concerns about the blowers at town board meetings and have asked for Heckscher State Park to be designated the town’s first green zone — an area maintained with zero-emission lawn care equipment.
At previous town board meetings, Berland’s proposal has not picked up much steam with other board members.